While workout variety may be the spice of a runner's life, repetition and routine tend to constitute a significant percentage of a runner's DNA. Ask most seasoned runners to describe their favorite loops or workouts, and the total number is surprisingly about a half dozen.
If executed the right way during different periods of training, having only a few key workouts in your routine can elevate your fitness. For you lovers of sameness, here are three easily executed workouts—and information on how to change them throughout the year.
Workout #1: The Ladder 6:00-1:00 "Increasing Pace" Ladder Fartlek
It's easy to be drawn to fartlek workouts for both their simplicity and effort-based design. Swedish for "speed play," fartleks, depending on their implementation, can improve your overall aerobic strength while augmenting the ability to change gears, an often under-stressed skill for endurance runners.
One common easily implemented fartlek session you can use throughout the year is the 6:00-1:00, made popular by Swedish Coach Gosta Holmer. The execution of this fartlek varies greatly, however, depending on the time of year and how close you are to key races.
This workout consists of 6 different pick-ups, starting with a 6-minute surge, followed by 5-minute, 4-minute, 3-minute, 2-minute and 1-minute surges. The recovery period is a jog of half the time of the surge just concluded (i.e., after the 6-minute surge, jog 3 minutes; after the 5-minute surge, jog 2.5 minutes etc.).
As you begin a new training regimen after an injury or a planned rest period, your pick-ups should be very contained in nature—75 percent effort or conversational effort with a training partner. The recovery, however, should only be at most 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than the surges. In other words, when first doing this workout, there should not be a great deal of difference between the surge paces and the recovery paces.